Monday, 23 March 2015

Italian cemetery provides clues on cholera's evolution

A team of archaeologists and other researchers hope that an ancient graveyard in Italy can yield clues about the deadly bacterium that causes cholera.

Researchers are excavating the graveyard surrounding the abandoned Badia Pozzeveri church in the Tuscany region of Italy. The site contains victims of the cholera epidemic that swept the world in the 1850s, said Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University and one of the leaders of the excavation team.

Archaeologists have spent the past four summers excavating remains in a special section of the cemetery used for cholera victims. Finding traces of the pathogen that caused cholera among the human remains could reveal details about how people lived -- and died -- in this region of Europe.

The bodies of the cholera victims were hastily buried and covered in lime, which hardened like concrete around the bodies. Researchers suspect residents were trying to keep the disease from spreading.

The researchers are of the view that if they find the DNA we could see how cholera has evolved and compare it to what the bacteria is like today. That's the first step to possibly finding a cure.

For further details see: Ohio State University.

Posted by Tim Sandle